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Ayton said his shot from distance was falling like a “middy” — a midrange jumper.
Ever since the team has been in Orlando, Florida, Ayton has made good on his shot. He nailed both of his 3-point attempts in the Suns’ scrimmage games and continued his long-distance success on Friday evening as Phoenix opened seeding-game play with a 125-112 win over the Washington Wizards. The 2019 No. 1 overall pick finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds while going 2-of-3 from deep, hitting one from the top of the key and another from the right corner.
Ayton, who was 0-for-7 on 3-pointers entering Friday, said his comfort level is now where he feels better taking the shots in games.
“I’ve been working on this thing my whole life,” Ayton said. “I could’ve been shooting. It’s just that I’m more comfortable with a system surrounded me to make me shoot the shot.”
Ayton had just six points and missed a 3-pointer in the first half but settled in offensively in the second half, going 8-of-10 from the field.
Suns coach Monty Williams said the way Ayton played showed growth on both sides of the floor.
“He just played the right way and he ended up with the numbers that he had,” Williams said. “He was at the rim, he’s shooting 3s. End-of-clock situations, he had the ball in his hands and didn’t panic. When guys don’t get touches they want, there’s a tendency to go after it and try to press the issue a little bit. I didn’t see that from him.
“That’s a level of growth. The other level was me being able to trust him with two fouls in the first half. I think he played a really long stretch with those two fouls.
“For him to be able to do that without picking up a silly one to get his third, that’s a sign of growth for him. Overall, a big-time game for him but I liked his poise across the board. Whether it was offense or defense, I thought he kept his poise all night.”
Suns guard Devin Booker, who finished with a game-high 27 points, said he’s excited to see what Ayton’s shot can do for Phoenix’s offense.
“It’s very nice to see,” Booker said. “He wouldn’t even shoot them during the first 65 [games], but we’ve seen him put in the work. He’s told us that he’s going to shoot them and he’s put in the work. There you have it. It matches up with the results.
“He’s shooting it with confidence. He’s spacing the floor. That’s going to be a big part of our offense with him moving shot-blockers away from the rim and knocking down big shots like that.”